Car maintenance is not always about the longevity of your car. It can also be about safety. How often do you think about the airbags in your car? What are important things to know about airbags?

From safety rules to how they work, here’s a few things about your car’s airbags.

A Brief History of Airbags in Cars

Car airbags are also known as a Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) and are usually found in the dashboard, interior sides, and the steering wheel.

Airbags were first introduced in the 1970s. In 1998 they became a federal regulation in car production. We rarely hear or think about airbags outside of car accidents. However, you should consider them part of your regular car maintenance. Why?

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Airbags reduce the chance that your upper body or head will strike the vehicle’s interior during a crash.”

Airbags usually deploy within 300 to 400 milliseconds during a crash. This means that they have some super-charges projectiles behind them that force them from the dashboard in the blink of an eye. They are so strong that they can crack a windshield. Therefore, you do not want these babies malfunctioning when they could be saving your life.

Not only is it essential to have your auto professional ensure that your car’s airbags are installed and working correctly, but you should have a general knowledge about them too. That’s why we compiled a list of 5 things you should know about airbags.

5 Things to Know About Airbags

5 Things to Know About Airbags

1. There are Multiple Types of Airbags

With car technologies advancing in safety, you can bet that there is more than one type of airbag in your car. Of course, this depends on the year that your model was made.

Newer cars are equipped with two types:

Frontal Air Bags

These are located in the center of your steering wheel and your dashboard. Typically, they are designed to protect you if you are hit from behind or from the front.

Side Air Bags

Located in the side panels of your car’s interior, side airbags inflate if your vehicle is hit from the side. Because of this, these side airbags will beat full inflation faster than the frontal airbags. There is less space between the colliding object and the passenger/driver.

2. Seatbelts and Airbags Are More Effective Together

Statistics show that there is a higher rate of survival in a crash among drivers that wear a seatbelt over those that do not. Your car is equipped with a seatbelt that will quickly retract during a collision, keeping you strapped into your seat. This is called an Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR). They are designed to slightly release shortly after the airbag deploys, allowing the driver to hit the airbags.

Do not think of airbags as a replacement for seatbelts.

3. Sit 10 Inches Away from the Steering Wheel

Because airbags deploy with such force, there is a safe distance between you and the steering wheel of 10 inches. Sitting too close to the steering wheel means that you could be injured should the SRS deploy. The first 2-3 inches next to the steering wheel are the most dangerous.

To ensure that you are sitting the correct length away from your steering wheel, measure from your breastbone to the center of the wheel. Here are some quick tips to make sure you are positioned correctly:

  • Push your seat back as far as you can while still touching the pedals comfortably.
  • Point the center of the steering wheel towards your chest and not your face.
  • If you need more room, you can always slightly recline your seat. This may give you the added space that you need to be 10 inches back.

4. Airbags are Not Designed for Children

Clearly, a child should not be driving your car. But, you should abide by the weight and age regulations regarding a car’s front passenger seat. One of the reasons behind these numbers is that airbags are not designed for child safety. They are too forceful and could cause harm to or kill a child.

Driving with kids in the car can be tricky enough. If you aren’t sure about your car’s front seat safety instructions, read your car’s owner’s manual. Children under the weight and age limit should sit in the center backseat.

5. Airbags Are Only Good for One Accident

In this way, airbags are like helmets. Once you’ve had a serious accident, they cannot be used again.

Airbags are not designed for multiple uses. Once they are deployed from the dashboard, they cannot be placed back in. During a crash, the airbags inflate rapidly with enough air to protectively block you from hitting the dashboard, side windows, or steering wheel.

If you’re ever in an accident and the SRS was deployed, you should have a professional install a new set for you ASAP.

Remember, don’t think about your car’s maintenance until it’s too late. This is especially true when considering you and your passenger’s safety. To have an airbag inspection, contact us at Northwest Auto Center.